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Boeing takes off

Community Manager Community Manager
Community Manager

There’s big goings on today at the largest aerospace corporation in the world. Boeing has decided to expand their implementation of Teamcenter to both new and selected legacy programs. Aerospace programs have some of the longest lifecycles out there, so this decision means that there could be data that started its life on a drafting board being stored in Teamcenter. It also means that Boeing is going to count on Teamcenter to enable design, build and service anywhere for selected current and future programs– a true testament to its scalability, adaptability and openness. I got a few minutes with Tim Nichols this morning to get the inside scoop on the Boeing decision and what it means for multi-national companies struggling to deal with the valuable information in their legacy systems and the challenges of optimizing the performance of a vast global enterprise with the stunning capabilities of the new PLM platform.

Boeing Interview with Tim Nichols

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It would have been bigger news had Boeing decided not to expand its implementation of Teamcenter.  Boeing first selected SDRC’s Metaphase as the basis for its Design and Control Aircraft Configuration/Manufacturing Resource Management (DCAC/MRM) system in 1995. Metaphase is the ancestor of Teamcenter Enterprise. 

In 1995, DCAC/MRM was supposed to consolidate hundreds of separate databases into a modern systems that would enable Boeing to react more quickly to changing market for airplanes.  DCAC/MRM is regarded by some current and former Boeing employees as a costly system that hasn’t lived up to expectations. Boeing’s delayed shipments of the 787 aircraft suggest that it doesn’t yet know how to efficiently manage a global manufacturing process.

In like vein, Airbus recently announced that it would continue a PDM contract for Windchill with Parametric Technology, even though its CAD software for future aircraft is Dassault Systèmes CATIA.  Airbus has been involved with Computervision’s Optegra since the early 1990s, and PTC acquired CV in 1998.  PTC later convinced Airbus to employ Windchill in place of Optegra to manage CADDS files.  Airbus has suffered its own embarrassing delays of the giant A380.

In big corporations, the devil we know is often preferable to the devil we don’t know. Sticking with an established supplier is usually easier than risking one’s job on a new one. That Boeing has chosen to stay with its 13-year PDM supplier and upgrade its existing systems is not an example of “optimizing the performance of a vast global enterprise with the stunning capabilities of [a] new PLM platform.” It is an illustration of corporate conservatism.

Community Manager

Thanks for the comment Steve.  Your recounting of the history of Boeing’s PDM strategy and deployment is impressive - it’s almost like you were there wink.

I agree with you completely that ” the devil we know is often preferable to the devil we don’t know” but in this case the devil that Boeing knew was their pre-existing programs was the legacy systems.  The most conservative choice would have been to do nothing - keep their pre-existing programs in the legacy systems.  Instead Boeing decided to move those programs into Teamcenter, which is a pretty clear indication that the value they get from using the application exceeds the cost of moving the data.

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Keeping the legacy systems is not an option for Boeing.  DCAC/MRM is based on a 13-year-old version of Metaphase.  Siemens could not be expected to support a product that old.  No PDM company that I know of would or could.

PDM customers have no choice but to upgrade if they are to continue to use their systems and get support.  PDM and CAD are like heroin additions: once you start using them, it’s pretty hard to stop. smile

Some companies switch CAD and PDM software suppliers, but in my observation, they only do so if they are very unhappy with the current supplier or are attempting to consolidate multiple divisions on a single standard.  That Boeing has decided to continue using Metaphase/Teamcenter is a vote of confidence for Siemens just as is Airbus’ decision to continue to buy from PTC.  However, these decisions are also the most conservative decisions open to these customers.

Community Manager

Thanks for another good comment Steve.  You are right that Boeing Commercial Aircraft (BCA) has been using DCAC/MRM over 13 years.  This implementation has contributed both significant value and production flexibility to BCA during this period when production flexibility was crucial, and moreover, it is expected to be used for the foreseeable future.  However, I think you might be mixing up what’s been going on at BCA and what was just announced.  The decision that was just announced was for Boeing’s military and space sector (IDS) where up until now they have Teamcenter only selectively and now have decided to expand its use to other new and legacy programs as the corporate EPDM standard.  So in this case Boeing IDS is replacing PDM systems including various in-house and COTS systems that divisions in this other sector have deployed over the years.  This decision is based on their extensive experience with Teamcenter in both Boeing BCA and IDS and their confidence that it will continue to be the leading EPDM platform for the unique challenges of the Aerospace & Defense Industry.